Victor-Marie Hugo, 1802 - 1885

portrait of Victor Hugo
Photographer unknown, 1884
Victor Hugo signature
485

Born: 26 February 1802, Besan
Died: 22 May 1885, Paris, France

Hugo was born into a house divided by both politics and religion. His father Léopold was an atheist, a republican, and a general under Napoleon; his mother Sophie was an extreme Catholic royalist. Neither of them were particularly faithful to the other. At first the family moved with Léopold's assignments, in 1803 Sophie took the children to Paris, and supervised Victor's education. Victor's first known poetry came at age thirteen, his first published collection came at twenty. His first work of fiction, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, came in 1829 and influenced a number of other authors including Camus, Dickens, and Dostoevsky. His first full-length novel was The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1831. He was elected to the French Academy in 1841 and elevated to the peerage the same year, arguing against the death penalty and social injustice and for freedom of the press in the Higher Chamber. His republican views led to his election to the Constitutional Assembly and the Legislative Assembly under the Second Republic, but led to his exile in 1851 when Napoleon III seized power. He spent most of his exile on the British-controlled island of Guernsey; when a general amnesty was announced in 1859 Hugo declined to return as he wished to continue to criticize the government. He wrote most of Les Misérable while in exile, it was published in 1862. Although not a musician, his works have inspired over a hundred operas. In 1848 he stopped writing to focus on politics, for the next three years his creative work was visual, mostly small pen and pencil works on paper, although he never showed or sold any of his art. He was a founding member of the association which pushed for international copyright laws, directly leading to the Berne Convention which was established the year after his death. For his 80th birthday a parade was organized, it took six hours to pass by as he sat at a window of his house. He was buried in the Panthéon, sharing a crypt with Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola, over two million people were in the funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the mausoleum.

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